Today’s story features my college teammate and roommate Chris Patrizi. Chris is one of the smartest people I have ever met in life, a pure genius on many subjects. He has incredible memory recall for numbers and all things important in life. Chris is a chemical engineer by trade and has been designing chemical plants worldwide for Chevron/Phillips for the past 30 years. Over the years Chris would caddy for me when we were in the same town. His witty humor and sense of timing a joke are unparalleled among my friends, he sees awkward moments unfolding before everyone else, it’s a gift. However, his caddying skills did not always match up to his IQ.
Flashback to 1984 Southern amateur at Bay Hill Club. I shot 74-73-75-75 =297 tied for 30th. Chris and I, like many other teammates, played a strong summer schedule to improve our amateur status in the hopes of getting onto the starting lineup for the fall season at Lamar University (the Princeton of Texas). Unfortunately, Chris missed the cut and decided to caddy for me in the last two rounds. It was a big thing to be ranked on the amateur circuit so I was grinding hard trying to post a good score. For all we knew Arnold Palmer was watching us play the last hole on Sunday. I drove it right down the middle, about 20 yards short of the spot where Robert Gamez made it from years later to beat Greg Norman. I had 197 yards to the pin overwater, it was a Sunday pin placement back right. After back and forth with Chris on club selection and wind direction, he says you have the perfect club and the perfect yardage and I know these things because “I’m good at math”. He starts to chuckle. I proceed to hit a perfect shot and it comes up 3 yards short, right into the rocks and then it takes a gigantic bounce backwards and splashes into the water. I look at Chris and say “did you miscalculate that wind? Because that was a perfect shot”. I ask him to please give me another ball, and I’m a little upset and my blood is pumping hot (is Arnold really watching from behind the green because this is about to be a Tin Cup moment). Chris lobs me a ball and says, with perfect calmness, “you have 198 yards this time. I think it’s a 5 iron. You’re swinging good.” As I’m standing over my next shot, now my fourth, Chris decides to sing… Beethoven’s 5th (done ta da done, done ta da done) as I approach my set up. I whipped my head up as if to say are you kidding me and he looks around as if it was not him. I get over the shot and he does his Beethoven rendition again but this time I just swung anyway and hit the same club a 5 iron to 12 inches for an easy 5. It was a big time bogey. Arnold gave us a tip of his hat. At least in our minds he did. Many years later during the late 90’s, I’m playing in the Shell Houston Open on the PGA TOUR, Chris is caddying for me again. It was always a great week in Houston. Chris and his wife Sherry lived in Houston near the TPC Woodlands, the host course for the PGA TOUR event. Chris would caddy each year when I would come to town. The tournament always fell on my birthday week and his wife Sherry would have surprises for me throughout the tournament. She would try to find the hottest girl in the crowd and pay her $100 to run out on to one of the televised holes and kiss me and have the crowd sing Happy Birthday. Sherry’s definition of a hot looking woman was sometimes different than that of Chris and my interpretation of “hot”. It was Birthday Sunday the final round, Chris was mumbling on the practice green that he hoped Sherry wouldn’t do anything crazy today. We were in good shape to make a nice check. I sensed he was nervous. Not about the round ahead, but about his wife. I say to him, “go over to the 1st tee and get the pin and rules sheets ready, I’m going to hit a few more putts before we tee off.” I take a few too many putts and I’m running late to the tee. I walk up and it’s quiet, I’m first to hit, Bob Gilder and Jim McGovern are my playing partners. It had rained the night before and the course was wet, this little fact will come back to haunt me later in the day. Days goes along well, I’m around even par, and I hit a nice drive off the 15th hole a par 5. My ball was barely past Bob’s and he was first to play. I had a little bit of an unusual lie in the fairway and was contemplating laying up. I look up at Gilder who is in the middle of the fairway and he has his ball in his hand. Chris sees me looking and I say to him “what is he doing with his ball in his hand?” Chris says, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about that since the first tee. We are playing the ball up today pro.” I’m like WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Chris says nope, “forgot to tell you that the rules official told the whole group on #1 tee while you were still on the putting green.” “So explain to me why it took you 15 holes to share this information?” Chris says, “it doesn’t matter, this is the best I’ve seen you play in a while.” I was in tears laughing at how much money I spent throughout the day by not knowing this little tidbit of information. I wound up teeing my ball up in the fairway and hitting it onto the green and made a nice two putt birdie. (Side note- I had only missed one fairway all day when I get this info on #15 then I missed the last two fairways of the day, imagine that irony.) Two holes later, we are walking down the fairway on the 17th hole, a very difficult hole with a forced carry approach over water, I feel Chris’s anxiety rise, he is mumbling to himself again. This time it was not Beethoven’s 5th. I ask “what’s wrong?” Then I let him know that I was not mad about the rules issue, told him it was my responsibility to check in on the first hole. He says, “that’s not it, Sherry is about to make a move.” At that moment we immediately start scanning the crowd and we can’t find Sherry so we know she is up to something. Chris’s instincts were spot on. As we walk up to the semi island 17th green with stands full and TV crews in place, here comes running Ms. Kissing Bandit wearing a pair of Daisy Dukes, 4 inch red heels and sporting a pair of knockers that would have given her black eyes had she not been wearing sunglasses. She had enough lipstick on to make the Joker proud. The crowd was going nuts. I looked at Chris and his face was bright red. The pros saw her at the same time and started laughing, I said “what the hell” as Ms. Bandit planted one big red smacker on my right cheek. I three putted the hole for bogey. Story of my career. #lovemesomechrisandsherrypatrizi #houstonopen